Wednesday night, Syracuse held a late second half lead, but gave up ten straight points to Pitt and dropped a 72-61 decision on the road in the ACC opener for both squads. Trevor Cooney made a pair of free throws coming out of the game’s final media timeout to put the Orange (10-4, 0-1 ACC) in front by a single point, but the Panthers (11-1, 1-0) iced the game in short order.
As has often been the case this season, SU was dominated on the backboards. Pitt enjoyed a 43-25 advantage on the glass and finished with more offensive rebounds (19) than Syracuse did defensive rebounds (17). The Panthers converted all those offensive boards into 22 second chance points. In addition to their stellar rebounding, Pitt committed one turnover in the second half.
SU got most of its offense in the opening moments at the foul line, but had issues scoring on all of their opportunities. The Panthers took advantage of those Orange shortcomings, eventually pulling out to a 13-5 lead.
Syracuse would scratch back into the game, scoring eight of ten points to draw within a deuce. Michael Gbinije canned a standstill three from the right wing to jumpstart the offense. Following a Pittsburgh score, Malachi Richardson led Tyler Roberson with a pretty lob for an alley oop slam, then Trevor Cooney buried a pull-up three to bring the Orange within 15-13 with just under eight minutes elapsed.
A Panther trey snapped the SU run, but the Orange bounced right back with a 7-2 burst to knot the game at 20 a side. Cooney hit another three, this one curling off a screen on the right side, then Syracuse got a pair of scores at the rim. First, Richardson finished a driving lay-up, then Tyler Lydon converted in transition to tie the score.
Lydon’s basket was the last Orange score for nearly four minutes, though, and Pitt took advantage. The hosts hammered away from close in, scoring a half dozen points in just over 90 seconds for a 26-20 lead.
Minutes later, SU notched eight of the final ten points of the half to draw even. Gbinije finished a crafty drive off the left side with a bank shot, then Richardson shoveled a pass to Roberson for a right-handed slam to bring the Orange within two points. Following a Panther bucket, Cooney made three foul shots and Gbinije tacked on one more to make it a 30-30 game at intermission.
Syracuse quickly grabbed the lead in the opening minutes of the second half. Richardson slashed to the bucket for the opening points of the half, then Gbinije hit a pull-up mid-range jumper and Cooney knocked down a corner three for a 37-32 lead two minutes out of the break.
After a Panther three sliced into the margin, SU scored on three straight trips. Lydon hit Roberson on a nifty pass of a drive for the first score, then Gbinije drove the right side for a lay-in. Lydon again found Roberson for two and the Orange held a 43-35 lead with five-and-a-half minutes gone in the half.
Pitt, however, came marching back by scoring 15 of the game’s next 20 points. In under six minutes, not only was the SU lead gone, but the Panthers held a 50-48 advantage with under nine minutes to go.
Syracuse got a Lydon free throw to halve the deficit, then Richardson mirrored a Pittsburgh three and Gbinije did the same with two foul shots. Roberson then answered a
Panther trey with a spinning drive and lefty finish while being fouled. His free throw again brought the Orange within a single point, this time at 58-57 with 5:32 on the clock.
Neither team mustered another point until Cooney drew a foul headed into the final media time out and made both charity shots coming out of the break for a 59-58 SU lead with 3:54 to go.
The Panthers ripped the lead back on a putback score, then got a wide-open jam in halfcourt for a three-point lead. The next two Pitt possessions got them a three-point play on a reverse lay-in and a transition dunk to make it nine straight points and a 67-59 lead with just over a minute to go. They added another foul shot seconds later to cap the 10-0 run and effectively end the game with a minute remaining.
Trevor Cooney and Tyler Roberson tied for the team lead with 15 points apiece for the Orange. Cooney his three triples in the game while Roberson had three blocked shots. Michael Gbinije added 14 points to go with seven assists while Malachi Richardson chipped in with ten points.
Jamel Artis nearly had a triple-double for Pittsburgh, finishing the evening with 18 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists. All of those marks were game highs. Michael Young added 15 points while Sheldon Jeter fell one rebound shy of a double-double with 11 points and nine boards. Chris Jones was the fourth Panther to reach double digits, finishing with ten points.
Syracuse heads south to Miami for their second ACC contest, as they will face the #13 Hurricanes (11-1) on Saturday afternoon. It will be the conference opener for Miami, who has a six-game win streak in hand. In fact, the ‘Canes are just a one-point loss against Northeastern from having a perfect non-conference record.
Sheldon McClellan is the top scorer for Miami, averaging 15.4 points per game on 55.0 percent shooting, including 47.5 percent from three-point range. Tonye Jekiri is a force in the middle for the Hurricanes, as he averages over nine points and ten rebounds per outing.